NASA’s announcement of a solar system with Earth-like planets caused speculation about aliens to run rife among the internet.
And while TRAPPIST-1 may be 39 light years away, we might not have to look that far to find aliens – they could be in our own backyard.
Reported sightings of UFOs are at an all-time high and New Zealand is among the hotspots of activity, according to one US PhD student who’s crunched the numbers.
Using data from the National UFO Reporting Centre (yes, there is one), Sam Monfort collated alleged sightings of unidentified flying objects have grown significantly since the 1980s.
The latest decade he plotted in his data visualisation blog is 2010, where sightings top 45,000 a year around the world.
Details of what witnesses claim to have seen have also changed over time.
“One of the first recorded UFO sightings comes from Portland in 1905, where a ‘buzzing’, sphere-shaped UFO descended from the clouds.
“Other shapes began cropping up later, with saucers dominating the scene until the 1990s, when mysterious lights became the most popular,” Mr Monfort, a doctoral student of human factors and applied cognition at George Mason University in Virginia, writes.
He talks about a “July 4th effect” where sightings spike after 2008 on the US Independence Day, which could be the result of fireworks lighting up the sky.
Mr Monfort also produced a map of the globe with UFO sightings per 10 million people. North America, the United Kingdom, parts of Europe, Australia and New Zealand are a deep shade of red meaning more than 25 sightings per 10 million people.
However, the vast majority of sightings do happen in the US, which has around 2500 reported sightings per 10 million people.
The country’s western states, including Washington and Montana, are where you’ll find the most sightings along with Maine and Vermont in the northeast.